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July 1, 2011

The Short Term Missions mentality

Summer's in full swing (which means it's the surface of the sun here in Texas) and I'm sure many of you are heading out on a short term mission trip, if you haven't already gone...which means I should have written this 2 months ago. Oops.

Well I'm going to write it anyway because I think it needs to be said but if it's too late, save it for your next trip. Mull it over. You never know, it could be useful.

I will begin by saying I have gone on many mission trips, I've even led quite a few as a youth leader, so this isn't coming out of nowhere, nor am I just some moron sitting around spouting opinions without the faintest idea of what I'm talking about...well today I'm not that far.

Short term missions (or STMs from here on) have become a bit of an epidemic in this country and one of the main questions people are starting to ask is, are they doing more harm than good? You'll be happy to know I'm not going to tackle that one right now. It's a much bigger question than one blog can handle. Instead I'm going to challenge you on a different aspect of the STM mentality.

The idea that other people should pay for you to go on one.

I was recently talking with friends of mine who are missionaries overseas and they were telling me that this summer they're having trouble raising support because most of their regular supporters have been swamped by letters from STMers asking them to help pay for their one week trip to (you fill in the blank). I myself get a new one every week and I don't even HAVE any money, so I can imagine what it's like for those who have, or seem to have, plenty. are my thoughts on that:

First - I feel as if the church has helped spread the idea that because you are going on a "church" trip to do "missions" work, you are entitled to ask other people to pay for your trip. Where in the world did that come from? Even Paul didn't expect people to cover his expenses all the time and he was the greatest missionary the world has ever seen. He was a tent-maker by profession, and would often work to support himself in the city he was ministering to because he never wanted to be a burden to the rest of the church. It is true that sometimes he was supported by those who loved him, and he was incredibly thankful for it, but he didn't assume it of them. I feel as if we've lost the joy of working hard for something. Like we aren't teaching you guys what it means to want something enough that you sweat for it. There's a wonderful sense of accomplishment in working hard to attain something you've been dreaming of, but for many of you, you've never felt that. With that in mind, I'll move on to my next point, which is simply...

Perhaps you should consider getting a job.

If an opportunity has presented itself for you to go to the Dominican Republic, France, Uganda or Albuquerque, instead of asking others to pay for you to go, DO something that will generate enough income to pay for your trip so you don't have to ask others to cover the cost. Babysit. Mow lawns. Set up a lemonade stand or have a neighborhood garage sale. Get a summer paper route. I realize that for a few of you, no matter how hard you work, you're still going to need help, and that's fine. But at least make the effort to raise as much of the trip cost as you can yourself. No one will be excited about helping you get to Costa Rica for a week if your contribution to the trip is shopping, going to the movies, or playing video games.

I know some of you are going to disagree with me on this and that's ok. My main issue is with this entitlement mentality I feel we're feeding in our youth and how that's going to hurt you in the long run...and how it might be hurting long term missionaries right now. I should also disclose that I grew up in Wyoming where nobody had much money and the general belief was that if you wanted something badly enough, you would work to make it happen. Ahhhhh the good 'ol days.

God has given you youth, a strong body, and boundless energy - go out there and use it for His glory and the good of others.